Motor City Stakes Claim To Be Capital of Autos’ Future

November 7, 2019

The Detroit News

Kalea Hall

Detroit — The Motor City’s historic strength in manufacturing is enabling it to become the center for the future of the automotive industry.

Just a few years ago, conventional thinking assumed Silicon Valley’s tech heavyweights held the upper hand in producing the next generation of vehicles. That was before the extensive problems experienced by electric-vehicle start-up Tesla Inc. in building EVs at its California plant, among other challenges to the tech-will-prevail thesis.

“There was this thinking that Silicon Valley was going to crush Detroit, that they knew how to do it better,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Cox Automotive. “Well, reality has set in” that Detroit knows is how to make cars. “Yes, they can be autonomous, they can be EVs. But … you still have to know how to build a car.”

Detroit does. And recent investments by all three Detroit automakers as well as a Silicon Valley self-driving company are helping the city build on its legacy of manufacturing know-how to stake the claim as the nation’s center for self-driving and electric vehicles.

“It’s almost like we are a Silicon Valley again, because if you look back over a century…we were a hub for natural resources, innovation and people — and we are seeing that again,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and the Detroit Regional Chamber’s vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives.

The city’s reinvention as a hub of innovation is visible in Corktown, where Dearborn-based Ford is building a campus that will be an electric and autonomous technology center for the automaker and its partners. The technology will take shape at Michigan Central Depot, a towering symbol of Detroit’s decline as it sat vacant for 30 years. Ford plans to reinvigorate it to house 2,500 employees and create space for partners to have another 2,500 employees to develop and test new mobility technologies. The station’s transformation, which will include retail and hospitality businesses, will be complete by the end of 2022.

“Ford believes in the city of Detroit and its peoples’ future as a global hub for modern mobility,” Ford’s Corktown spokeswoman Christina Twelftree said. “Michigan is the automotive R&D capital of the world and Detroit is uniquely positioned to leapfrog other urban cores to explore the role transportation can play in revitalizing cities.”

Already there’s a staff of 250 Ford Autonomous Vehicle LLC employees working in the neighborhood.A fleet of self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids being tested with partner Argo AI is a common sight in the Motor City.

The global automotive industry has multiple cities wanting to stake the claim that they are the center for future automotive technologies. Because Detroit is “working from a position of history and a position of strength with regards to the ecosystem, it’s a great place for the center to develop,” Stevens said.

“We are very quickly becoming not only an automotive center, but an absolute global leader for the development of this next-generation mobility technology.”

GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant is yet another example of the city capitalizing on what it knows how to do best: build vehicles.

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MICHauto Investors Gather in Lansing for Annual Meetings with Legislators

“Meeting with legislators is crucial to ensuring that policymakers understand the industry’s issues, opportunities, and our collective economic impact,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

On Tuesday, April 16, the Chamber’s MICHauto initiative gathered executives from 25 automotive companies to meet with 25 legislators in Lansing for the 2019 Automobility Day at the Capitol. Automotive experts and executives discussed the industry’s impact with legislators including MICHauto’s 2019 policy priorities. This year’s priorities focus on the further development of talent, technology, and trade as the key drivers of progress.

“The MICHauto policy priorities were created with the automotive industry and represent their thoughts on what we need to focus on to ensure future economic success,” Stevens said.

MICHauto values the opportunity to foster collaboration between industry leaders and the state government, which will ultimately strengthen Michigan’s economy and reinforce its standing as the automotive capital of the world. Many individuals contribute to this shared effort, and each year MICHauto recognizes one of them for their commitment to supporting the automotive and mobility industry in Michigan.

This year, MICHauto named Rep. Rebekah Warren Legislator of the Year for her dedication to driving next-generation vehicle R&D, her sponsorship and creation of the framework to allow the establishment of the American Center for Mobility, and her appointment on the Michigan Council on Future Mobility.

The sixth annual Automobility Day at the Capitol highlighted how a strong partnership with Michigan’s political leadership will continue to promote a promising future for the state’s automotive and mobility industry.

 

One of Automotive’s Leading Mobility Experts to Kick Off the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference

Don Butler, executive director of Connected Vehicle Platform and Product for Ford Mobility, a division of Ford Motor Company, will kick off the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference on Wednesday, May 30 with a keynote address on Michigan’s mobility industry.

Butler has served on the front lines of the automotive industry’s transformation at Ford and General Motors (GM). He will discuss how the state can remain competitive in the era of connected and automated vehicle testing and development. Butler’s keynote session is sponsored by Ford Motor Company.

In his current position, Butler is responsible for Ford’s global integrated connectivity vision and strategy. He leads long-term planning and development to implement Ford’s vision of “smart vehicles for a smart world.” Butler previously held leadership roles at GM, where he is credited with reinventing the Cadillac brand among African-Americans, and the creation of GM’s Turn-by-Turn Navigation and Onstar Vehicle Diagnostics System.